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Published: 2011/10/28
by Randy Ray

Joe Russo: Many Chapters, Many Volumes

RR: That’s a great way to look at things in all aspects of life. I like that—commitment and trust leads to no fear, no paranoia, and freedom.

JR: Yeah, just the fact of knowing that I truly feel that I can go on stage and pretty much do anything (laughter)…within reason…

RR: A Bonham timpani solo.

JR: Yeah. Yeah. But have Bob and Phil and everyone else on stage say, “All right, cool, let’s give this a second and see what happens,” instead of it being a thing where it is shut down or just something that doesn’t jive. I truly feel that everyone trusts each other to the point of actually making new music. I feel like we truly are able to expand upon this book that has had so many amazing chapters already, and I think that really does come with the trust, and it changes the energy of the performance. It is really that lack of fear; anything can happen.

I know when I first joined the band, I was always—you know, at least in the back of my mind—thinking, “The Grateful Dead would have done it this way.” And, at this point, this isn’t the Grateful Dead. We luckily have amazing songs and an amazing heritage and amazing parts of that band, but I certainly feel like, at this point, the fear has been removed of hurting some sort of legacy, while removing any sort of negativity of really really trying to do something different. I just feel very encouraged to let the moment take me where it takes me, and sometimes, it’ll end up in a place where maybe the music hasn’t been before—either strange, or different, or whatever. But I’m enjoying myself, I think the rest of the band is enjoying themselves, and the fans out front are enjoying themselves seeing us take a couple of different chances than were taken before, due to who is on stage now. We all have different influences, and it’s been so great to be able to use those influences in this arena.

RR: Another familiar face, perhaps much more familiar, Marco Benevento.

JR: I love that guy. (laughter)

RR: Is it one of those “when you get around to it” situations with the Duo?

JR: Every time he and I see each other, we’re like “Oh, come on, we’ve got to do something,” but we’re both committed to the idea that ‘if and when’, or more likely ‘when’ than ‘if’, when we get back together, we really want it to be something special, and we want to be able to deliver something that can outshine anything that we’ve done in the past, so we’re just taking our time. We definitely want to come back and make an amazing record, and be able to put on an amazing live show, and that is going to take a lot of time and effort. But it’s cool that we’re both on the same page as far as where, you know what, who cares how long it takes? If it takes a year, if it takes four years, if it takes seven years, whatever it is, we’re committed to the idea of making one more awesome record, if not more, but we’re keeping our sights very simple and very pure, but definitely have an absolute intention of doing it again when both our lives allow it.

RR: You were on the second American Babies album, Flawed Logic which came out earlier in 2011, but could not remain in the band due to your various commitments.

JR: Right. Yeah. Had to leave the band, unfortunately, which bums me out. It is such an amazing band. Tommy [Hamilton] is such a great friend, an amazing songwriter, an amazing musician, but he’s got a great band surrounding him. My friend, Dave [Butler] started playing drums for me; he’s a phenomenal drummer and a great guy. I think he has a solid core around him. Whereas, in the earlier days, when it was myself and Metzger, you know, guys who had to hop away for different gigs here and there, it didn’t really give the opportunity for that band to grow in the way it needed to, and I think Tom now has a cast of guys who can really help bring it to that level of truly getting out there. But, as with first record, it was a total pleasure working on the second one. I thought he did an amazing job. Tom definitely took more of a singular role on the second record, more producer, and it’s good. I think he deserves to be the guy who is running the show with that stuff, and I think he did a killer job with the record.

RR: We’ve talked quite a bit about what happens through the end of the year. What about in 2012? What are your sights focused on for next year?

JR: God, I have no idea. (laughter)

RR: That’s a good place to be.

JR: Yeah. I’ve got some Furthur stuff happening. We’re trying to book maybe some out of town Bustle. Maybe go back and hit some of the places we haven’t done in a long
time, like Chicago and San Francisco and have a little bit more fun with that thing. Certainly, Shpongle—we have our two States shows, and I think there is eventually going to be, hopefully, a full-blown U.S. tour, so I would really like to see that happen, as well as still doing some European stuff with them. That is always a treat, too—getting out of the States, and getting to travel with those guys.

RR: Oh, yeah, a different mix with the audiences, too.

JR: Yeah, it’s super fun. After you’ve toured the States for a while, it’s always fun, but it’s really such a treat to tour somewhere that you’ve either never been, or haven’t spent a lot of time in, so that’s something those guys have always been able to do, and it’s just fantastic. Just after the next Furthur run, I leave and go straight to Tel Aviv to do a show with those guys, and I’ve never been there, so I can’t wait to check that out.

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